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Leukemia. 2010 Jan;24(1):141-52. doi: 10.1038/leu.2009.216. Epub 2009 Nov 12.

Recruitment of PKC-betaII to lipid rafts mediates apoptosis-resistance in chronic lymphocytic leukemia expressing ZAP-70.

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3rd Department of Medicine, Hematology and Oncology, Technical University, Munich 81675, Germany.


ZAP-70 is a key signaling molecule in T cells. It couples the antigen-activated T-cell receptor to downstream signaling pathways. Its expression in leukemic B-cells derived from a subgroup of patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is associated with an aggressive course of the disease. However, its implication for the pathogenesis of aggressive CLL is still unclear. In this study, we show that the expression of ZAP-70 enhances the signals associated with the B-cell receptor, recruiting protein kinase C-betaII (PKC-betaII) into lipid raft domains. Subsequently, PKC-betaII is activated and shuttles from the plasma membrane to the mitochondria. We unravel that the antiapoptotic protein Bcl-2 and its antagonistic BH3-protein Bim(EL) are putative substrates for PKC-betaII. PKC-betaII-mediated phosphorylation of Bcl-2 augments its antiapoptotic function by increasing its ability to sequester more pro-apoptotic Bim(EL.) In addition, the phosphorylation of Bim(EL) by PKC-betaII leads to its proteasomal degradation. These changes confer leukemic cells to a more antiapoptotic state with aggressiveness of the disease. Most importantly, these molecular changes can be therapeutically targeted with the small molecule inhibitor Enzastaurin. We provide evidence that this compound is highly active in leukemic cells and augments the cytotoxic effects of standard chemotherapeutic drugs.

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